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Vermont family turns losing lottery tickets into cash

Nov 6, 2012, 7:30 am

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Vermont Lottery

The game's got a new name and some new rules, but when it comes to competing for cash prizes in the Vermont Lottery's second-chance, scratch-off ticket drawing, the money keeps rolling in for the Leamy family of Wilder.

Last week, when the $200 winners in the first drawing for the "Play It Again" game were announced, Joyce Leamy was on the list.

It was the 52nd time in six years that someone in the Leamy family has won prizes or cash for submitting a losing scratch-off Vermont Lottery ticket in the second-chance contest.

That's according to a review of the list of winners in "Play It Again" and "Recycle And Win," the game it replaced in June. About 100 people win $200 cash prizes in each quarterly drawing, out of a total of between 250,000 and 500,000 participants.

"It's just a numbers game," said Robert Leamy, Joyce's husband and the admitted mastermind behind the family's success at the lottery game. "The more you enter, the more likely you're going to win."

It's been a lucrative undertaking as well.

Counting the $200 that Joyce Leamy won last week, five members of the Leamy family have together won $10,300 in cash and prizes through the submission of thousands of used scratch-off tickets to the Vermont Lottery since 2006. And that doesn't count the times a boyfriend or girlfriend of one of the Leamys' adult children have won money, too.

"When our last child went off to college, my wife said I needed to get a hobby," Robert Leamy, an employee of the Veterans Administration, said modestly. "So I did."

Robert Leamy's game plan isn't complicated and it's perfectly legal.

Every day or so, he collects piles of discarded scratch-off tickets from a couple of what he said were "large volume" ticket buyers and from several area stores that sell the tickets. He then goes through the process of submitting them for the second-chance game under his name or that of his wife and children.

"A lot of people who play the scratch games want that instant winner feeling," he said. "They don't have the patience to wait three months to see if the ticket can win on a second chance. And you have to put the work into it."

Hadley Melandy, marketing director for the Vermont Lottery, said there's nothing wrong with the way Leamy has played the game.

"The ticket isn't owned by anyone until they sign it," she said. "Once it's signed on the back, it belongs to that person. We don't have any law against people collecting non-win tickets."

The Leamys aren't the only Vermonters who show up as repeat winners in the game; a review of the winners lists over the past seven years found more than a dozen names that won multiple times. No one, however, has won as much or as often as the Leamys.

Leamy estimates he spends at least 10 hours a week on collecting used lottery tickets and sending them in. He said he also plays New Hampshire's second-chance lottery game, also with good results.

Most states have second chance games like Vermont's, said Greg Smith, the new director of the Vermont Lottery.

"It gives people another chance to win," Smith said. "It also drives people to our web site and that gives us a chance to provide information about other promotions and offers for the lottery player."

Leamy said the rules of the new "Play It Again" game will make it tougher for his family members to win than the "Recycle and Win" one it replaced, largely because the rules of the new game limit a household to one winning ticket per quarter.

Under the old game's rules, sometimes as many as three different Leamys living at the family's home in Wilder were $200 winners in the same drawing. Once, four Leamys — including a son living in Madison, Wisc. — won money at the same time, plus a girlfriend of one of his sons.

The new game also requires using a computer to send in the ticket number and code. That's OK with Leamy, who used to have to sign the back of each ticket and drive bags of them up to the Vermont Lottery headquarters in Barre in order to enter them in the old "Recycle and Win" drawings.

"I'd crunch every single one up," Leamy said. "It made them easier to grab during the drawings."

Now, it's all digital: A computer randomly selects the winners, so the option of crunching up tickets for an extra advantage is gone. Melandy, the Vermont Lottery marketing director, said there have been few complaints with the changes in the new game, particularly with the computerization of ticket submissions.

"I think people are getting up to speed with it," she said.

Leamy said the switch to computer submissions doesn't bother him, but the one-win-per-household rule is another matter.

"We're probably not going to win as much," he said.

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

Thanks to rdgrnr for the tip.

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